Landscape theme and variations (series B)

Landscape theme and variations (series B), 1963, oil on jute. 765mm x 7225mm. © Collection of Museum of New Zeland Te Papa Tongarewa, gift of the Arts Council of New Zealand Toi Aotearoa, 2011 (2011-0028-1/1-8 to 8-8). Courtesy of the Colin McCahon Research and Publication Trust

 

 


 

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Yona Lee, Succession, 2020 Stainless steel objects. Exhibition view, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New Zealand, 2020 Courtesy the artist and Fine Arts, Sydney

Yona Lee

artist
Yona Lee is an artist based in Auckland, New Zealand. Lee's solo exhibition Succession is currently on display at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand. Her work has recently been the subject of solo exhibitions at institutions including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia; City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand; and has been included in recent thematic exhibitions including the 15th Lyon Contemporary Art Biennale, France; and Changwon Sculpture Biennale, South Korea.

 

I spent this past summer in Dunedin as a visiting artist at Dunedin Public Art Gallery in partnership with the Dunedin School of Art. Physically being in the landscape and the school where Colin McCahon studied provided me with an opportunity to revisit his work, which I have greatly admired for a long time.

Landscape theme and variations (series B) (1963) provides no information on place. However, they are very much New Zealand landscapes; a mixture of both the North and South islands. This set of works in particular is very musical. Simple, repetitive and rhythmic in variation. There is freshness to each painting; in their improvisation and  subtle differences; the slight shift in colour, composition, line and weight. I enjoy McCahon’s rests in between each work - just like one’s breathing in between phrases - his rests make the series so powerful. There is something about the work which makes me feel really human and grounded. Quite akin to a moment after I finished work in Dunedin, when I was captured by the fresh air as I stood still by the vast landscape of Otago, with thoughts about deadlines vanishing quickly from my mind.

Colin McCahon often talks about the monotonous quality of the New Zealand landscape. He’s interested in capturing this essential monotony and mentions a similar experience when listening to Bach’s music as noted in a letter to Ron O’Reilly. Bach’s music is monotony. It is its simplicity that makes it so difficult for performers to play. There is no drama that one can hide behind , as with more Romantic pieces like Rachmaninoff where emotions play dramatically. With Bach, performers are exposed, and must remember not to do too much to it. The form and structure are so perfect, you as a performer just need to let it speak, and not get in the way. I can listen to Bach everyday and not get bored of it, as you discover something new every time - as with the New Zealand landscape.

During my residency I developed 23 discrete objects towards an exhibition at Dunedin Public Art Gallery. These objects were hung on the walls just like paintings. Elements of musical composition pronounced and activated the work through the language of repetition, variation and rhythm. The objects became like instruments and the four walls functioned like the bars in music score with the distance between each work setting up a tempo of the piece. The exhibition is now temporarily closed due to the national lockdown and my summer in Dunedin feels like a long time ago. During this uncertain time, when my days are simplified to an extreme level, McCahon speaks to me quietly to search for the quality of monotony in life, nature, and art. 

CONNECTING CULTURAL LEGACY WITH CONTEMPORARY PRACTICE

Index
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Bridget Riggir-Cuddy
The House Protects the Dreamer
Naomi McCleary
Kauri
Séraphine Pick
Northland Panels
Brian Sweeney
View from the top of the cliff
Rudi Fuchs
North Otago Landscape
Rex Butler
I Considered All the Acts of Oppression
Donna McDonald
The Fourteen Stations of the Cross
Harold Jones
Muriwai no.7
Ted Spring
On Building Bridges
Areez Katki
The Three Marys at the Tomb
Rosanna Raymond
Jet Out
Rufus Knight
Waterfall
Megan Tamati-Quennell
Black Landscape
Nick Mitzevich
Victory over Death 2
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern
Victory over Death 2
The Governor-General, The Rt Hon Dame Patsy Reddy
Gate III
Grant Banbury
I Paul
Sir Bob Harvey
Dark Landscape
Young Old Girls (Christchurch Girls’ High)
North Otago Landscape 19
Sophie Bannan
Van Gogh - poems by John Caselberg
Linda Tyler
Urewera Triptych
Emily Karaka
Tangi. Muriwai
Robert Gardiner
Are there not twelve hours of daylight
Thomas Crow
Are there not twelve hours of daylight
Jude Rae
Victory over death 2
Brent Harris
The Family
Cora-Allan Wickliffe
15 Drawings Dec '51 to May '52
Salome Tanuvasa
Landscape
Yona Lee
Landscape theme and variations (series B)
David Kirk
Kaipara
Priscilla Pitts
Fourteen Stations of the Cross
Ruth Watson
This day a man is
Tessa Laird
Keep New Zealand Green
Nell
East window
Nicola Farquhar
Kauri trees
Hon Grant Robertson
Otago Peninsula
Jane Macknight
Untitled (North Otago Landscape)
Karen Walker
Titirangi
Wystan Curnow
The Green Plain
Philip Clarke
Necessary Protection (IHS)
Mary Kisler
A candle in a dark room
Ayesha Green
I AM
Matthew O'Reilly
Muriwai
Bettina Bradbury and Kararaina Rangihau
A poster for the Urewera no. 2
Al Keating
A Grain of wheat
Cushla Dillon
Entombment (after Titian)
Hamish Coney
Here I give thanks to Mondrian
Stephen Wainwright
As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land
Sue Gardiner
Landscape theme and variations (series A)
Robert Leonard
Numerals
Judy Darragh
Clouds 1
John Coley
AS THERE IS A CONSTANT FLOW OF LIGHT WE ARE BORN INTO THE PURE LAND
Shannon Te Ao
Ka pōraruraru ahau. I am troubled.
Helen Beaglehole
GATE III
Ralph Paine
Jump E9
Judy Millar
Muriwai: Necessary Protection
Fiona Pardington
Waterfall
C.K. Stead
All mortals are like grass
Gretchen Albrecht
As there is a constant flow of light we are born into the pure land
Martin Edmond
Cross (1959)
Lisa Reihana
Urewera mural
Peter Simpson
Jet out to Te Reinga
Christina Barton
Gate III
Dame Jenny Gibbs
I Considered All the Acts of Oppression
Zoe Black
Ruby Bay
Jim Barr and Mary Barr
Oaia and clouds
Vivienne Stone
Tomorrow will be the same but not as this is
Kate Sylvester
Northland Panels